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Residence Life professional tapped for national award on student conduct issues
3/07/13

Shawn Isaacs, Alfred University (AU) assistant director of Residence Life, has received the American College Personnel Association’s (ACPA) Commission for Student Conduct and Legal Issues Award, making him its new professional of the year.

The ACPA, now in its 89th year running, is committed to bettering tertiary education by providing, outreach, advocacy, research and professional development.  Joining the ACPA on its venture to better college and university experiences are over 7,500 member schools from the United States and abroad. The purpose of the ACPA’s Commission for Student Conduct and Legal Issues is to support the vital progress of higher education’s student conduct professionals towards a more dynamic future.

Colleagues of Isaacs, who also chairs the AU Peer Review Board, say that above all else what makes him an effective leader of AU’s student centric judiciary system is his ability to relate.

“I think it’s a case of being fortunate to be unfortunate,”  said Isaacs on his past experiences as an inner-city youth with aspirations just big enough to hoist him out of east side Buffalo.

Upon graduating from AU, Isaacs left Alfred with its community feeling more like home than home itself. Growing up in the east side of Buffalo is a feat that may only be likened to an urban steeple-chase with the repercussions of the finish line far weightier than circumstance leads most to experience.

Isaacs came into Alfred University as a member of the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) where he began having as large an impact on the university community as it would eventually have on him. While studying at AU Isaacs was an RA (residence assistant) for five semesters. Later he became a staff assistant for AU’s Ford Street apartments and International House, distinctions traditionally given to graduate students.

Experiences with new beginnings at AU grounded in Isaacs an understanding of a person’s ability to change if only offered the opportunity. Isaacs implements exactly this ideology of manufacturing positive change as chair of the Peer Review Board.

“As the chair of the Peer Review Board, Shawn encourages the board members to consider the accused students [as] emerging adults,” said AU Dean of Students Norm Pollard, who works closely with Isaacs in student judicial affairs.

Engagement, Personal Development, Interpersonal Development and Community Membership, or EPIC, monitors the holistic progress of a student as opposed to taking a Hammurabi like, black and white, approach. The EPIC model popularized by the University of Texas was originally brought to AU by Pollard and since has been fortified as a judiciary mechanism at AU by Isaacs.

According to Director of Residence Life Brenda Porter, EPIC, as it is applied by Isaacs, represents the germination of ideas that have always anchored AU’s judiciary process, asking, what can be done to help. In this way, Isaacs nurtures the same congenial and progressive spirit that helped him achieve beyond expectations when he first came to AU. Students are accepted as having made mistakes and rather than being punished are nudged in the direction of progress. It is exactly here that Isaacs’ coworkers say he has the greatest impact.

“Shawn is a morally upstanding do-no-harm, do the right thing, kind of person, to his detriment sometimes,” said Porter of her assistant director.

Following graduation from AU in 2008, Isaacs went on to study sports management at the University of New Haven, Connecticut.  He later enjoyed a stint working game-day management for Yale University, but ultimately found greater value in residence life and was pulled back home to Alfred.

When asked which vocation he enjoys more Isaacs replied, “[Residence life is] more rewarding because you work with people and you put your investments in people, helping them to learn and grow, and you see the result of that maybe a couple years down the line and they say, thank you.”